The Hottest Thing on Wheels (or Rails)As the new
transportation secretary, Ray LaHood has been tasked with remaking our transportation infrastructure into one that focuses more on sustainability than widening highways. It's a tall order but, so far, we're impressed with his approach.1. For supporting high-speed rail.
When Obama squeezed $8 billion for high-speed rail into the recent stimulus package, LaHood got on board fast. His grant program for rail projects already has nearly 300 applications. They're being prioritized according to where they'll serve the most people. You'll find out whether your area gets quick, clean transport by the end of the year.2. For looking for good models.
It's no secret that Amtrak is struggling. But high-speed rail is working in Europe and Asia. Last May, Ray LaHood took a fact-finding trip through France, Spain, Germany, and Japan to find out what they're doing right.3. For joining up with the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Where we live, how we get around, and whether we destroy the planet with greenhouse gases are related issues. So it only makes sense for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency to work together. That's just what they're doing with the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which will coordinate their various programs.4. For confronting George Will.
In Newsweek, the columnist George Will attacked LaHood's efforts to create "livable communities" as excessive government intervention. LaHood was unrepentant, responding, "We have to create opportunities for people that do want to use a bicycle or want to walk or want to get on a streetcar or want to ride a light rail. … Everything we do around here is government intrusion in people's lives."5. For his commitment to bipartisanship.
LaHood-elected to office as a Republican in Illinois seven times-has conservative bona fides. And he's been using that clout with the Right to try to ensure that both sides of the aisle are working together.